Pentecost: A Primer

Let’s talk about Pentecost. We think of it as a Christian party, but behind it lies a Jewish festival which comes fifty days after the Passover. The Passover festival recalls the exodus from Egypt. It remembers when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, when every Israelite household sacrificed a lamb, marked their doorposts with its blood, packed their bags, and roasted and ate the lamb. That very night, an avenging angel came and wrought havoc on Egypt, and Pharaoh was finally persuaded to let the Israelites go, freed from slavery at last.  Continue reading “Pentecost: A Primer”

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Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God

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Tonight we have a great story about food: and it makes me wonder: Who do you eat with? But first, the story. As a Jewish man, Peter will not eat certain foods; but in a vision God shows him all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds, and tells him to kill and eat. And as prawn-cracker-crunching pork-chop-eating Gentile followers of Jesus, it’s easy for us to roll our eyes and say, Well, duh!! But we can only say “duh!” because we are beneficiaries of Peter’s response to this vision. For while he is still pondering what he has seen, he is invited to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. On the basis of the vision, Peter the Jew accepts. Continue reading “Eating Out-of-Bounds: The Culture of God”

Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus

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Like the wider Christian church, our congregation includes people who hold very different ideas about how to live. Some of us acknowledge the possibility of a just war; others believe that peacemaking is the only way. Some of us proclaim salvation through Christ alone; others, that there are many paths to God. Some of us freely affirm faithful homosexual relationships; others reject the idea that any such relationship could be godly. We are all reading the same Bible, yet our conclusions can clash. So what’s happening here? And what’s the way forward? Continue reading “Open Heart, Open Mind: Reading the Bible with Jesus”

Group Reflection: Common Purse

On Sunday we reflected as a group on Acts 4:32-35. The conversation was wide-ranging and included stories of people’s attempts to live with a common purse and/or live in community. Of particular note:

*Some people talked about their experience of moving to shared finances in married life. One couple was delighted: joining forces meant they could finally use ATMs, because together they would regularly have over $20 in their account (the minimum needed to use an ATM). Another couple had struggled with how money and power played out, and whether or not the greater earner should have more say over how money was spent. This was a particular struggle for the lesser earner, who perhaps felt they should not insist on how money was spent. Continue reading “Group Reflection: Common Purse”

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

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Once upon a time, my fiancé and I were living in North Fitzroy; and we were married by Paul Turton at the North Carlton Baptist Church. We stood before the congregation, and made our promises, and were declared a wedded couple. Straightaway, I met a surprising number of interesting, intelligent, and attractive men. I began wondering if my own interesting, intelligent, and attractive man was really the best option, or whether I had made a colossal mistake; and I found myself wrestling with demons of pride, and doubt, and desire.  Continue reading “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!”

Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?

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I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Pita bread and hommous? Rice wrapped in vine leaves? Dried figs, almonds, and a soft mound of goats’ cheese? When Jesus visits Simon’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed. But although it’s the Sabbath, and although she’s a woman, and although she’s sick, Jesus touches her. She is healed; she gets out of bed; and she begins to serve them: and in the Middle East, that always means food.  Continue reading “Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?”

People of All Ages Doing Faith Together

I visited our sister church, South Yarra Community Baptist, on Sunday, and told them all about us. If you’re curious, this is what I said:

To paraphrase the great missionary, the Apostle Paul, “I greet you as God’s own children, and wish you all the best.” When I moved to Warrnambool last year, a good friend of mine described it as my own great missionary journey. So tonight I will channel the energies of the missionaries who spoke at churches in my childhood, and bring stories of more of God’s children, and a slideshow. My name is Alison, I’m your church-planting pastor, and I am very grateful for the administrative, liturgical, prayerful, and other support that South Yarra provides. I’m here in Melbourne this week because I’m doing an intensive on the spiritual life of children. Basically, I’m checking if I’m doing things right, because the congregation I now serve is two-thirds kids. As you can imagine, the service—and my work—have a very different energy to South Yarra. And yet, if you were to visit, things would probably feel strangely familiar.  Continue reading “People of All Ages Doing Faith Together”

The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller

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Parables are like puzzle boxes. There are no easy answers, no straight readings. You can take a parable in several directions: how you interpret it depends on your faith community, your social location, your Biblical knowledge, your image of God, a good dose of the Holy Spirit, and—let’s be honest!—your mood. Now, most people have heard spiritual interpretations of the parable of the talents. In such a reading, those Christians who don’t use their money, time, gifts, and abilities to advance the kingdom of heaven will face God’s anger and judgement. But it’s interesting that nothing in the story says that the angry boss is God. So let’s swap the lens from spiritual to economic, and assume that Jesus meant the talents literally. A talent was a colossal unit of money, over a million dollars today: how might knowing this affect the reading? Listen as I riff on the story, and re-tell it in a modern context. Perhaps it will lead to a different place. And if it does, then, like all good parables, where you go from that place is up to you. So make yourself comfortable: it’s time for a story.  Continue reading “The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller”

It’s You!

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A person knocks on a door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your servant.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your sibling.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s You.” The door swings open.

What if we have already been given every spiritual resource we need? What if we can be so transformed by Christ that, when he looks into our eyes, he sees himself? What if it is up to each of us to open the door?  Continue reading “It’s You!”

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